NFL exec gives insight on what Panthers can get from Sam Darnold

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

An NFL executive provided FanSided’s national insider Matt Lombardo with some thoughts on what the Carolina Panthers are getting in quarterback Sam Darnold.

The Carolina Panthers are betting on Sam Darnold to turn things around in a different environment. They managed to secure the quarterback from the New York Jets in exchange for three draft picks over the next two years, which represents a low-risk, high reward trade that could pay off in a big way if the former first-round selection finally starts living up to his potential.

Whether Darnold can do this right away remains to be seen. He was seen as a victim of his environment during his time at MetLife Stadium, with little in the way of protection, offensive weapons, and a head coach in Adam Gase who was clearly out of his depth.

This is a big opportunity for the USC product, who now has a solid edge protector in Taylor Moton, progressive coaches in Matt Rhule and Joe Brady, arguably the NFL’s best dual-threat running back alongside him in Christian McCaffrey, and weapons in the passing game such as D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and David Moore.

What comes next will be ultimately down to Darnold. Carolina is expected to pick up his fifth-year option, so the signal-caller will get two seasons to prove his worth before the Panthers can make a final conclusion either way.

Teddy Bridgewater has now been permitted to seek a trade away from the team just one year removed from signing a three-year, $63 million deal with a $15 million signing bonus and $33 million guaranteed. Rhule and new general manager Scott Fitterer want more in the way of production from their quarterback and if Darnold can enjoy a renaissance after leaving the Jets, this is a win-win for all parties.

Carolina Panthers OC Joe Brady can help Sam Darnold shine.

Matt Lombardo, who is FanSided‘s national NFL insider, recently spoke with an NFL executive for his weekly column “Beyond the Hashmarks” about Darnold’s potential in Carolina, which centers around offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s ability to get the very most out of rough diamonds who are yet to reach their potential.

"“I expect him to play pretty well under [Panthers offensive coordinator] Joe Brady. Joe Burrow looked like a mid-round pick in 2018, then became the No. 1 overall pick by 2019 after playing in Brady’s offense. Sam can be a middle-tier starter in this league. Having him and Jameis Winston, both reclamation projects, in the NFC South will sure be interesting to watch.”"

Whether the Panthers will be happy with Darnold being a mid-level starter remains to be seen. If he can reach this level in Year 1 it would be an upgrade on Bridgewater, who had some nice moments in 2020 but simply failed to get the job done when it mattered most.

The similarities between Brady, Burrow, and Darnold are evident.

If Carolina can get a similar turnaround from their new acquisition, it will stand the organization in enormously good stead. And Brady will surely get a head coaching job in 2022 if he can bring the No. 3 overall selection in 2018 to the sort of level everyone expected when he entered the NFL.

How the Panthers build around Darnold during the 2021 NFL Draft is going to be crucial. They need a franchise left tackle and could be in a position to take either Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater at No. 8, which would do the quarterback’s chances the world of good.

The reaction to Darnold’s arrival has been largely positive. But that won’t be the case for long if the player doesn’t hit the ground running in Carolina.